Sports

Cross country teams rebuild after loss of graduating seniors

By
Sports Staff Writer
Friday, September 7, 2012

 

As both cross country programs prepare to kick off their seasons at Saturday’s Bryant Invitational, athletes and coaches are optimistic for the season despite having lost several valuable seniors. The women enter their second season with Women’s Cross Country Head Coach Mitchell Baker at the helm and look to improve upon last year’s seventh place finish at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championship. The men lost several of their top runners to graduation but are poised to mature as a team and move beyond last year’s fourth place finish at the league’s most important competition. 

The seniors who graduated served as “positive role models” for the rest of the team and helped create an environment where there is “more consistency” and “less uncertainty,” Baker said. 

This stability is particularly important for the new freshmen that have joined the team, and they will be welcomed by co-captains Olivia Mickle ’13 and Bree Shugarts ’13, veterans of the team. Mickle will look to build on a red-hot outdoor track season in which she competed at the Outdoor Track and Field NCAA Championships. Also returning are Heidi Caldwell ’14 and Margaret Connelly ’14, who finished tenth and 14th in last year’s Ivy League Championships.

Though Baker had a late start in his recruiting campaign – he was hired last August – he said he is pleased with the incoming freshmen class. “I think we’re much more prepared to be a full team at this level,” Baker said. He added that it takes time to develop a “team synergy” and that he believes the women are ready to be “consistent throughout the season.”

“In terms of our conference and region, I feel we’ll be much stronger,” Baker said. “It is just a question of whether other programs have made the same jump.”

On the men’s side, the team lost key seniors including All-American Dan Lowry ’12, who finished 28th at last year’s cross country NCAA Championships. 

Head Coach Tim Springfield acknowledged these losses but emphasized that he sees it as an opportunity for growth.

“We want to find the way to be a better team without those seniors,” Springfield said. “The whole team is going to have to elevate their performances.”

According to co-captain Kevin Cooper ’13, the freshmen will play an important part in this effort, bringing “a good attitude” to the team. Among the new runners is Ned Willig ’16, a two-time high school All-American and 2012 Millrose Mile qualifier.

Springfield explained that one of the team’s priorities would be to consistently have “an extremely close 1-5 split,” referring to the time between the first and fifth runners to finish for Brown. Generally, the smaller the split between these runners, the better a team will score.

“We want to have a true cross country team,” Springfield said. “Our number-one guy crosses the line, turns around and sees the other four guys coming down the home stretch.”

Cooper and fellow co-captain Conor Grogan ’13, both of whom competed for Brown at the NCAA Northeast Regionals, will lead the men’s team this season. They are “doing an excellent job of leading both in the practice arena and then off the track,” Springfield said. 

Everyone is “excited to start racing” and see how much summer training will have paid off, Cooper said.

Cooper said he hoped to set an example for his new teammates, passing on the team culture of a “hard work ethic” and “dedication to the sport.”

Both teams will compete at Bryant this weekend and will later run at the Iona Meet of Champions Sept. 15.

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